Carey Letters as a Top Prospect

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Los Alamitos football Coach John Barnes has sent 25 players to Division I colleges in the last eight years, so very little surprises him about the recruiting process.

Then his phone rang June 30.

It was a recruiter from the University of Colorado, asking Barnes for the home phone number of Los Alamitos quarterback Tim Carey.

July 1 was the first day NCAA rules allow colleges to call players, and Carey was among the most sought-after players in the nation.

"When do you plan to call him?" Barnes asked.

"Just after midnight," the recruiter told him. "We wanted to be the first school to talk to him."

Barnes winced.

"I don't think that would be a good idea," he said.

The recruiter asked why.

"He'll probably be sleeping at midnight."

That night, Barnes shared the story with Carey and his parents, Tim and Cathy, at a Los Alamitos passing-league game.

And sure enough, the phone rang the next day, but not at 12:01 a.m. Carey's sleep was spared, at least for now.

More than 35 schools have contacted Carey since the spring of his junior year. He has received more than 500 recruiting letters, with stacks of mail arriving each day. His mother has been filing the letters in alphabetical order.

There are salutations from Dennis Erickson at Miami, Colorado's Bill McCartney, Stanford's Bill Walsh, Oklahoma's Gary Gibbs, Washington's Don James, Michigan's Gary Moeller and John Mackovic of Texas. USC, UCLA, Cal, Wisconsin, Kansas, Oregon and others have written.

A June 24 letter from UCLA assistant coach Bill Rees warned Carey of the upcoming barrage, opening with this sentence: "Get ready for the phone to ring off the hook." It ended with: "Relax, have fun, and enjoy your summer vacation."

Schools are allowed to call once a week. Carey averages about two or three a night.

"The phone rang last Saturday," said Carey's father. "And it was one of the Texas assistant coaches calling from halftime of the Syracuse game.

"You could barely hear him with the crowd and band, it was so loud (in the Carrier Dome).

"He probably had a list of about 10 guys he was calling. I told him Tim wasn't home. He was at school, watching game films."

Quiet and unassuming, Carey shrugs when asked about his college choices. He lists Stanford and USC at the top of his list. He wants to stay on the West Coast, but is keeping an open mind.

"Sometimes, I'll be watching a game or reading something and it will really change my mind," he said. "The handwritten letters from the coaches really influence you.

"I visited USC the first day of practice and I really wanted to go there. I would have signed that day."

But he changes his mind often.

A visit with Walsh and his staff before the Pigskin Classic swayed him toward Stanford.

A letter from Oklahoma quarterback Cale Gundy encourages him to become a Sooner.

Watching Notre Dame games on TV makes the Irish hard to resist.

Colorado has that new passing offense.

Miami throws like crazy.

Cal's football camp was great. So was Arizona State's.

His thoughts on some of the schools. . .

Notre Dame: "I like Notre Dame, but I don't know where they're going with their offense. They were after Tommie Frazier last year, but he switched to Nebraska at the last minute because he was wondering what Notre Dame was going to do (offensively).

"But I grew up following Notre Dame with my dad. That's about the only team he watches. He's a big-time Notre Dame fan."

Miami: "They haven't been calling me very much but they've sent a lot of letters. They're interested. Coach Barnes knows one of the assistant coaches there."

UCLA: "I went to their camp and had a great talk with (offensive coordinator) Homer Smith."

USC: "I would like to go to a place where I can redshirt and maybe play as a redshirt freshman. USC would be good. Rob Johnson would be gone (after) my redshirt freshman year."

Washington State: "They're throwing the ball a lot."

Houston: "They're just starting to send me some letters."

Michigan: "It's pretty darn cold there."

Why all the attention?

He has the skills to make it in college.

Carey's ability to run Los Alamitos' advanced run-and-shoot passing offense impresses college scouts. He sets up quickly, makes good reads and throws well on the run.

He has the size. He is 6 feet 4 and can see over college defenses. He could stand to add about 20 pounds to his 175-pound frame.

He has the grades. He has a 3.1 grade-point average and scored 1,130 on his Scholastic Aptitude Test.

"If he broke his leg today and misses the rest of the season," Barnes said, "he would still get a Division I scholarship."

Carey, who transferred from Mater Dei as a sophomore, established himself as one of the nation's top quarterbacks last season. He passed for 2,501 yards and 21 touchdowns in leading the Griffins to the Southern Section Division III championship.

SuperPrep magazine ranks Carey sixth in the nation among quarterbacks. Max Emfinger's scouting service ranks Carey third on the West Coast at his position.

"I knew how crazy it (recruiting) was going to get at the end of last year," Barnes said. " Everybody wants him."

The first warning came last spring.

After reviewing game film of Carey during a visit to Los Alamitos, Texas offensive coordinator Gene Dahlquist turned to Barnes and said, "That's the best guy in the nation."

"Gene said he will not stop until the day Tim signs with them," Barnes said.

Other schools began to take notice. USC watched film. So did UCLA. Letters from Stanford, Miami and Notre Dame asked for grade transcripts. Mail began stacking up on Barnes' desk. College media guides began arriving in Carey's mailbox.

Carey's parents weren't quite ready for all this attention being showered on their son. They knew Tim had a great junior season, but didn't realize the magnitude of the interest in him until a meeting with Barnes last spring.

"I always figured Tim would play college ball somewhere, maybe Santa Clara or somewhere," his father said. "Then Barnes calls us in and tells us Tim is the most heavily recruited player he has had. We left shaking our heads. We never expected anything like this."

A few days before the season-opener against Marina, Carey and his mother sat in the den of their Seal Beach home, sorting through recruiting mail and talking about the upcoming season with his brother Tommy, 12, and sister Megan, 7.

Cathy, perhaps adding a little extra pressure and motivation, said, "It's important that Tim gets off to a good start this year, or all this is going to end very quickly."

He got off to a great start, completing his first seven passes during an 18-of-31, 275-yard two-touchdown performance in Los Alamitos' 21-9 victory.

Carey's father, a merchant marine, returned from a trip to Honolulu in time for the game. He noticed that his son was more nervous before Friday's game than any other he had played.

"Tim never says anything about it," said his father, "but all this (attention) has really got to him. There's all those expectations. He doesn't want to let anyone down, the coaches, teammates, us, the coaches recruiting him.

"I think the sooner he settles all this, the better."

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